by Margie Miklas
Taormina is one of the most popular and beautiful places in Sicily. It was my first stop in Sicily and I fell in love immediately. I’d recommend this classy resort city to anyone planning a trip to Sicilia, the southern island of Italy. Aside from its beauty and location on the Ionian Sea, Taormina is home to Teatro Greco, the Greek theater, which is one of the largest ancient amphitheaters in Sicily, second to the one in Siracusa. This old theater sits atop a hill and provides a panoramic view of the beautiful blue Ionian Sea 702 feet below. In the other direction, Mount Etna rises up almost 11,000 feet, and the scene is every photographer’s dream, especially on a clear day. Even though it was rainy and cloudy, I could see Mount Etna and the view was amazing.
As Taormina’s most famous sight, Teatro Greco dates back to the third century BC. The Greeks, under the reign of Hiero II of Syracuse, carved this architectural masterpiece from the hillside. It was used as a theater with the orchestra at the center and a seating capacity of 5000 spectators. The horseshoe-shaped venue had a diameter of 358 feet, and originally had nine sections with eight rows of seats.Then in the second century AD the Romans rebuilt the theater and changed its appearance drastically, adapting it to be used for gladiator bouts and sporting shows using wild animals. They made major changes to the stage and eliminated the orchestra pit. They dug a trench deep enough to be able to accommodate the fighters and animals. They also built a partial roof, which no longer exists today. The theater changed again in the tenth century, when the Arabs conquered and destroyed much of Taormina during a very long siege. Several years later during the medieval ages, the theater was used as a palatial residence. Today Teatro Greco is categorized as some of the best architectural ruins, with several Corinthian columns still standing. As one of the most popular attractions in Sicily, Teatro Greco is open daily during the months of April through September, from 9am to 7pm; and from October to March, from 9am to 4pm. 2016 admission prices are 10€ for adults, 5€ for those ages 18 to 25 coming from the EU, and free for adults 65 and older and children 17 and younger, coming from the EU, Canada, and Australia. (Source: Travel Taormina) The theater still functions as a very active entertainment venue. Every summer Taormina hosts an arts festival, Taormina Arte, of music and dance events, as well as an annual film festival. Many of the performances occur inside Teatro Greco, as the acoustics are exceptional, and even today, you can hear a stage whisper in the last rows. This coming May Duran Duran and Robert Plant are just two of the scheduled concerts. In past years, Paul Simon, Simple Minds, Carlos Santana, Tony Bennett, and Elton John performed in separate concert events. Ballet and opera are also part of the event calendar at this amazing historic Sicilian venue. A visit to the ancient Greek amphitheater in Taormina is an experience like no other, combining history, culture, architecture, and beauty. I’ve been there twice and I highly recommend it.